A suicide letter has been found at the house of a prominent French lawyer found dead near his private island in Brittany.

The body of Olivier Metzner, 63, was located at about 9am on the coast of Boedic, Vannes public prosecutor's office said on Monday.

Rising from a humble background, Metzner scaled the career ladder and came to represent some of the most famous names in France, including rogue trader Jerome Kerviel and Dominique de Villepin, the former prime minister.

In 2010, he defended Panama's Manuel Noriega, who was eventually found guilty of money laundering and was sentenced to seven years in prison in France.

Noriega, who was later extradited to Panama for further crimes, said in a note sent by his eldest daughter that he was "surprised" and "deeply hurt" to learn of the death.

He also dismissed suggestions of suicide, saying the act was "incompatible with [Metzner's] personality".

Antonin Levy, Metzner's associate, told the AP news agency that his colleague's death represented a huge loss to the French bar, calling him a "great lawyer and a fighter".

Georges Kiejman, another of Metzner's colleague, said: "I had strong intellectual admiration for him, but that didn't stop me from thinking - wrongly it seems - that he could perhaps lack some heart and sensitivity."

Metzner bought Boedic island in 2010, describing it as "a magnificent and remarkable place". 

Source: Agencies